In the case of Jerry Ryan Echols, the jury has returned a guilty verdict of first-degree murder against the victim Christopher English, according to the office of District Attorney Ted Bell.
Sentencing in the case is expected at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, March 6.
As the murder trial of Jerry Ryan Echols reaches its end, closing arguments were heard from prosecution and the defense prior to jury deliberation Tuesday afternoon.
Addressing the jury, the crux of Assistant District Attorney Kent Brown’s argument was that 34-year-old Echols required a necessary reason to not only shoot 39-year-old Nebo man Christopher English, but to kill him in self-defense during their altercation on June 17, 2015.
“Did you hear any evidence about that? Did you hear the defendant say, ‘I believe I have to kill him’?” asked Brown. “Did you hear this defendant say ‘I believe he’s going to kill me’? Did you hear him say ‘I believe Chris English is going to inflict serious bodily harm on me, therefore I have to kill him’?”
In their prior testimony, Echols and his girlfriend at the time, Shirley “Cricket” Hollifield, claimed that Hollifield was confronted by a man believed to be English in their driveway on Wheeler Drive on June 17 and frightened her, leading Echols to seek out the man in question and confront him that night, resulting in the fatal shooting on Pinnacle Heights Drive.
Brown maintained that Echols, in the days leading up to the shooting, had been frustrated or angered by English either directly – in a brief altercation, as mentioned by witness Danielle Bradley, in which English reportedly walked up to him in the dark and shined a flashlight in his car window– or indirectly, through allegations by Hollifield that English had offered bikes to her son and other children and tried to lure them into the woods with candy. It was these instances, as well as the reported altercation with Hollifield on June 17, that Brown claimed provided motive for Echols to kill or harm English.
“The defendant left him alive” said Brown, “went back up to the house and he looked down at this carnage, didn’t call anybody, and he watched the man die. That’s exactly what happened. And once his intention was made true and finalized, he went and had his gun cleaned, packed his bags, and then he tried to get away. He wants you, with your verdict, to let him get away.”
Defense attorney Sam Snead began his argument with a visual metaphor.
“Fueled by a quarter gram of methamphetamine,” Snead began, referencing the victim’s drug intake the night of his death, “Chris English became a werewolf. Whether he liked it or not, Ryan Echols was his full moon. That’s what happened. That’s the best way to distill down this incident.”
Citing from English’s clinical assessment from Jan. 2014 – in which he had documented as saying “When confronted, I black out and explode” – as well as prior testimony, Snead built a narrative for the jury regarding English’s alleged erratic, often bizarre and drug-addled behavior, including pulling a street sign out of the ground and leaving it in a friend’s yard, as an indication of who was the aggressor in his and Echols’ confrontation, as well as exhibiting the type of behavior that had frightened Hollifield when she was confronted earlier that night.
“This was a very emotionally fraught event leading up to this interaction with Chris English, and regardless of the type of person that Ryan Echols was, he was motivated by the love of his family. Is there any other explanation? They’ve got his phone. They looked at all of his records. Is there any other connection to Chris English? Is this a robbery? A drug deal? No! This was exactly what it reports to be. There’s no other ulterior motive or not other hidden motive. This is it. This is what you have to consider, and all these facts, the State just hasn’t met its burden and you should find Ryan Echols not guilty of this murder. Of this first-degree murder, second-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter. Not guilty.”
Jury deliberation began at 11:55 a.m. on Tuesday and continued through deadline.